MAY 20, 2010
At long last, I finally get to see one of these movies in a theater! I missed Quarantine’s theatrical run, and the original [Rec] never played around here as far as I know, so I was very stoked to see [Rec] 2 on the big screen, especially after I heard so many good things about it from my colleagues. However, while I enjoyed the movie, I don’t think it’s quite the home run that I was led to believe it was (some friends even said it was better than the original!).
The main issue I had was that it breaks tension by giving us too many points of view. While it was always the same guy in the original (to the best of my recollection - someone might have grabbed it for a brief time I suppose), here we have I think four different cameras capturing the action. First is a team of SWAT types who are accompanying a priest (this is supposed to be a surprise when its revealed, which is odd because I just assumed the guy was a priest right from the start) to investigate the aftermath of the stuff that happened in the first movie. They each have a camera, and it gets confusing which one is filming at times, especially since they seem to always be focusing on the priest guy instead of each other. We occasionally get these 24-esque split screen scenes and such, and it just didn’t work for me - I like that we didn’t always know what was happening in the original, whereas here (returning directors) Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza are always cutting to whoever is filming the best action. At one point one of them goes up into an air duct - I think it would have been so much more terrifying to simply watch him go up and then only HEAR the inevitable attack from the ground below, instead of actually watching yet another zombie/demon thing scuttle toward the camera.
And the problem just gets worse when, halfway through the movie, we switch to an entirely different group of characters (a group of teens - sigh) who arrive on the scene at the same time as the SWAT guys (we see an event for a 2nd time, now from their POV, to establish the timeframe). Plus, they’re outside! And it’s a while before they are actually in any danger, so we just have to watch them playing pranks and arguing with each other until that point. It’s a bit fun to see certain events from a different perspective, but I don’t think it’s worth the severe break in the tension.
Also, since I wasn’t really big on the religious angle in the first place, I was a bit restless when its expanded for this film, which goes so far as to have one of the things stop attacking when a religious medal of some sort is hung on the door it is trapped behind, not to mention a few scenes where they talk in Pazuzu-esque voice. In fact, at times it feels more like a verité Exorcist sequel than one to [Rec], as it’s only been an hour or so and yet the infected things behave completely different (one even crawls across the ceiling!). I know a sequel has to expand things, but when it’s expanding something that wasn’t the best element to begin with, it’s a bit problematic. I would have rather that one escaped from the quarantined building somehow and wreaked havoc elsewhere. And Descent 2 did a way better job of recycling its predecessor’s location (finding/using the bodies of those who died in the first movie, for example) - it’s the same night, after all, yet apart from the bloodstain at the bottom of the stairwell, there’s very little visual evidence of what happened before.
This is minor, and technically correct, but I also wasn’t a fan of the occasional muffled sound after a loud noise. On most (all?) digital cameras, a loud spike will cause the internal mic to sort of “shell” itself, producing a muffled sound for a few seconds after. Balagueró and Plaza use this technically-correct-but-creatively-annoying trick at least three times in the film, one of which goes on for so long I began to wonder if it was actually just something wrong with the film. It worked in Saving Private Ryan - it doesn’t here.
But it still works as a thrill ride experience. The jump scares come fast and furious, and there seems to be a lot more zombies (or whatever you want to call them) this time around. There are also a couple of terrifically nerve-wracking scenes, such as when they need to use night vision in order to see hidden panels and such, which also limits how much of the room they can see. And I loved the third act developments - the movie starts to essentially repeat itself (yet another “be quiet with the monster right next to you” scene), and then it spins everything on its ear, delivering a nice twist to this movie and showing us the aftermath of the last one (i.e. what happened after Angela got dragged away).
And since I had a lot of problems with Quarantine, I loved how they made the entire movie “shot for shot remake” proof, since so much of it deals with the religious stuff that Sony’s redo didn’t bother to include (pretty much the only change they DID make). In order to use this as the guide for the inevitable Quarantine 2, they’ll have to include it, which would sort of contradict their first movie. So oh no! They might have to come up with their own fucking ideas! Poor Sony.
Also, they continue to be better than most of the other mockumentary films with regards to filming. The SWAT guys have built in cameras in their helmets, so they’re completely covered there, and the bulk of the climax requires night vision (which is sort of a generic trick at this point, but some don’t even bother with that much). Not sure why the kids keep filming when shit starts to go down, but it’s still better thought out and executed than many of its peers for the most part (I love that the sister lets it dangle by her side while it still records). I mean, it could have been worse - they could have just had a bunch of outcasts going into the building that they filmed [Rec] in before going crazy and killing each other.*
At the same press event, I also got a chance to see the new Neil Marshall film Centurion, which isn’t horror (but IS bloody/gory as hell). I wasn’t sure what the film was going to be like - it started off like Gladiator, and having just seen Robin Hood, I was about to just take a rain check since [Rec] 2 was next and thus my ass would probably prefer not to sit in those goofy chairs at the Wilshire Screening Room for 4 straight hours. But I stuck with it, and was glad I did, because it’s actually more of a chase movie (not unlike Judgment Night), albeit with the medieval setting. Michael Fassbender is a terrific hero, and I also really liked Liam Cunningham (who played a similar character in Clash of the Titans). And I will never argue with putting 28 Weeks Later's Imogen Poots in a movie. I thought that the end was a bit abrupt, but it definitely delivers sword and sandal thrills with the best of them, and Neil infused the film with just enough humor (some a bit anachronistic, but that’s OK) for it to be humorous without becoming a joke. Highly recommended, especially if the PG-13 Robin Hood or King Arthur left you cold - at one point we just see like 30 bloody battlefield kills in a row.
Not sure what see [Rec] 2’s release plan is like - as it is from Magnet/Magnolia I can guarantee it won’t be on 2000 screens or whatever, but perhaps it will play better at home anyway. It’s a pretty typical sequel - not as good as the original, but there’s a comfort in taking the ride again.
What say you?
*I actually like Blair Witch 2, believe it or not, though I will be the first to admit it's one of the least satisfying approaches to a sequel imaginable.